The WhatCounts Blog
Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.
As an email marketer, you’re only as good as the quality of your list.
If your list quality is poor, it stands to reason the results of your email marketing will be similarly lacking. But there’s one action you can take to truly gauge the standings of your list.
Split your list using just one segmentation rule: active and inactive subscribers.
Dividing your list into actives and inactives helps you measure overall performance accurately. You’ll be able to see on a daily basis how many people are opening and clicking on your emails and directly compare it to who isn’t. This not only helps you with reporting, but can assist you with re-engaging those inactive subscribers. Setting up this segmentation is one and done once all the correct parameters are entered.
Actives vs. Inactives
Create one rolling segmentation rule that qualifies all your engaged subscribers based on whether they’ve opened or clicked on at least one campaign within the last 180 days (six months). You’ll want to make sure you include people who are new to the list within the last 90 days regardless. This is because it may take a subscriber a little bit of time to warm up to a list.
The second rolling segmentation rule should be based off subscribers who have not opened or clicked on an email in 180 days (six months).
Make sure you set up the segmentation rules so subscribers who open or click an email from the inactive list will automatically qualify for the active list moving forward. Similarly, records on your active record list should be set to roll to your inactive list if they haven’t engaged in your emails in the last six months. Setting this up correctly the first time will make sure the right people are in the right segment at all times.
Helpful hint: If you use Google Analytics or Omniture to track stats for your email campaigns, name your templates differently for each individual send. This will ensure each will report as two separate campaigns, and you can see how much revenue is earned per segment.
Bonus: Score a Deliverability Win
By splitting your lists, you’ll be able to accurately report on performance and make important decisions about re-engagement campaigns or leaving your inactives out of your sends altogether. Choosing to do the latter may actually profit your deliverability rates since inactive, unengaged subscribers often lead to deliverability issues. These problems roll over to affect inbox placement for your active and highly engaged records.
For more tips about email deliverability, join the Oct. 29 webinar Don’t Be a Deliverability Grinch: Tips for Holiday Sending.
You’ve put together a killer strategy for a one-time promotional email. You’ve spent hours making sure the subject line, copy and design are amazing. You’ve sent it out with sky-high confidence in the reaction you’ll get from subscribers. And then you get less-than-impressive metrics.
If you’ve sent this type of email before and didn’t get a 100-percent open rate, you’re not alone. It’s not necessarily your fault that your special email campaign imploded. A number of factors could be attributed to the slump.
1. What stage of the lifecycle are they in?
Where people are in the customer lifecycle dictates how interested they are in your email. Perhaps many of your subscribers have just fallen off into the inactive stage and need to be re-engaged. A purely promotional email, no matter how amazing it is, won’t catch their attention.
2. What time of day did you send it?
Another reason may be the time of day your email was sent. It could be that you made sure the moving parts of your campaign were running smoothly, but you didn’t test to see when your audience is most receptive to promotional campaigns.
3. Are they getting too many other emails?
You must also consider the sheer number of other emails your subscribers are receiving. According to ReturnPath, the average email subscriber receives 416 commercial emails a month. This number is only going to grow with the fast-approaching holiday season.
Remail to the Rescue!
One strategy to help overcome the noise of the inbox is a remail. A remail is when you re-send your promotional email to users who didn’t open or click.
Note, though, it’s best to use this tactic sparingly.
Let’s say you have a unique or time-sensitive promotion that didn’t receive a lot of engagement from subscribers. This is a good situation to use the remail strategy. But if one of your weekly newsletters doesn’t do as well as the week before, it’s not a good idea to re-send that.
When you do remail, send it on a different day and at a different time to avoid overmailing your subscribers. Additionally, update your subject line and preheader to increase the likelihood subscribers will engage – maybe they didn’t connect with your previous copy.
Testing is key and monitoring unsubscribes and complaints is crucial.
Recently, I let you in on a little secret about our newsletter list. We dropped about 18,000 (yep, that’s three zeros) subscribers. These readers were silent – no opens, no clicks, no interest whatsoever. So I took the plunge and unsubscribed them. What happened was what every deliverability expert could have told you would happen: Our list engagement started to rise steadily.
But there’s a whole other side to this case study, and it has to do with our deliverability numbers.
It’s hard to admit, but our deliverability rate wasn’t phenomenal before our list-cleaning adventure. Our partner ReturnPath gives us deliverability data, and our inbox placement numbers prior to dropping 60 percent of our subscribers was 60 -70 percent. It’s not abysmal, but it’s definitely not acceptable.
Although we were inboxing just fine at most ISPs, the problem was we were bulking or going straight to spam in almost all of the providers we really care about (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail).
A little side note about ReturnPath: In its default settings, it lends equal weight to all the domains it monitors, so bulking at Gmail is the same to them as bulking at an obscure international ISP. But for most of us, our subscribers belong to five or six big ISPs and we only really care about delivery rates for those.
All that to say, as soon as we cleaned our newsletter list of disengaged subscribers, our inbox placement rocketed to a high, 80-percent range almost immediately.
At first glance, 88-89 percent inbox placement may not seem like a significant, worthy-of-celebration jump. But it actually is amazing when you look at the ISPs where we used to be going straight to junk, but weren’t inboxing, i.e. all the ones we care about. Our Return Path inbox report is now a thing of beauty.
Are you on the fence about triggering a re-engagement campaign and a list cleaning frenzy? The minor pain of seeing your subscriber numbers go down is well worth the gain of better engagement and deliverability metrics. And we all know when your emails are getting delivered to more people, and those people are all interacting with your messages, it’s good for everyone.
If you’re looking to start off your week with an extra dose of email marketing news, read on. Five of my favorite articles to hit the web in the last few weeks are below, and they are sure to
provide you with some fresh insight on your email marketing game plan.
Where Segmentation Fails | Media Post
Although I applaud segmenting your audience over a batch-and-blast approach, a smart marketer knows that it is not always easy to market effectively to cookie-cutter segments. Peruse this article to educate yourself on why segmentation can sometimes backfire, and how to find the sweet-spot for balancing individual customer propensity and the segment in which they fall into.
Moan, Moan, Moan – All You Ever Do Is Complain! Part 2 | Return Path
In the life of an email marketer, complaints from subscribers are one of those things you will probably never get away from completely, but you should try to avoid. After all, your goal should always be to maintain happy, engaged subscribers. Get solutions to five problematic situations that tend to arise with new subscribers are receiving their first email from your brand, via this article.
What Is Customer Retention And Why Do You Need It? | Econsultancy
Why is it that even after you’ve mastered a magnificent customer experience, that some customers don’t return? It is more efficient and cost effective to retain current customers than acquire new, so it is critical to master maintaining your current customers while trying to bring in new ones. Check out this article for the tips you need to stop disengagement.
We’ve now entered Q4 and that means one very important thing: holiday season. It is time to prep for your ever-important holiday strategy, so grab this list of marketing must-knows from ClickZ and get going (and then drop by for our deliverability webinar on October 29)!
If “…60% of executives read an email newsletter as one of their first three news sources they check daily,” I’d say that is cause enough to put an emphasis on newsletter content, and if a company doesn’t send a newsletter, perhaps they should. Whether you’re looking to overhaul your newsletter or just spruce up parts, this article is filled with ideas that you should implement at the first available opportunity.
Have you read any good articles lately? Be sure to tweet them to @WhatCounts – we’re always up for a great digital marketing read!
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
They are running rampant in business offices, marketing meetings, and in your everyday sales pitch. Try as we might to avoid using them, many of the common digital marketing buzzwords can seep their way into our content and speech quiet easily. Although overused, some buzzwords have value and reason to be in conversation, while others are better left out of your vocabulary list.
In honor of all the buzzwords out there that we hold a love/hate relationship with, I present to you a buzzword word search. Can you find 9 of the most used marketing buzzwords in the word search below?
When you find the word, simply click on the first letter, unclick, and then drag your mouse over to the last letter in the word and click again. The letters should highlight as you drag your mouse across.
Want to know who doesn’t fall into the trap of over-using buzzwords? Our agency, the Agents of Email! Our agency’s goal is to get clients the highest return on their email program. Whether it is through a win-back campaign, a welcome series, custom lifecycle messaging and segmentation, or anything in between, they live to create and send effective, relevant email.
What is the number one buzzword you could do without hearing again? Let us know by tweeting @WhatCounts !
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
You may even be tempted to find excuses to send even more emails than you usually do during the gift-buying, gift-giving season. However, if you’re not careful, an over-abundance of email could do more harm than good.
I Can Send More, Right?
If read up on ReturnPath’s recent Inbox Benchmark report. In that study, the deliverability expert’s stats say email was more likely to reach the inbox during the 2013 holiday season. Based on that data, shouldn’t we all be sending more holiday email campaigns?
Not exactly. You have to look at what happened in the deliverability space last year. There were a number of factors contributing to slightly higher inbox placement across the industry, including the uptick in mobile opens and the additional volume of email from large, reputable national brands.
Here’s a Better Idea
If you’re not a large, reputable national brand, it’s important to remember these industry-wide numbers don’t mean much for you. Instead, worry about if your email is or isn’t reaching the inbox. You should continue to test your content and frequency, send to your most loyal and engaged subscribers. Most importantly, you should ask your audience if they’re okay with you increasing the frequency of your sends before you move forward. This can be done through a survey in your regular email campaigns.
And don’t underestimate the power of following delivery best practices. If you aren’t familiar with those, we’ve got experts for that. In fact, take a listen to a recent Marketing Over Coffee podcast where our Director of Deliverability Brad Gurley talks about the most popular deliverability topics:
- Deliverability 101
- Interactivity 101
- How to resolve black list issues
- The two most common mistakes made by email marketers when it comes to delivery.
- How reputation scoring works
- Good benchmarks for spam reporting
- When to know if third-party deliverability tools are a requirement
Keep Things Merry and Bright
Don’t ruin your email program’s deliverability this holiday season by taking unnecessary risks. If you’d like even more tips about what the industry delivery reports mean for your email marketing – and holiday sending in particular – sign up to attend the webinar “Don’t Be A Deliverability Grinch! Tips for Holiday Sending.” During this presentation, Brad will be bringing you Christmas-movie-themed tips for holiday sending. Plus, you’ll get an opportunity to submit deliverability questions before the event for Brad to answer during the presentation. Hope you can join!
Yes, I’m alive to tell about it.
Yes, I shed a tear when it happened.
Yes, you can do it, too.
Inactive Subscribers are the Worst
This is the story of how we sloughed off 18,000 subscribers from our mailing list. It starts, like any story, with a pretty decent beginning. Once upon a time, our mailing list was growing and healthy. Or so we thought. Turns out, fewer and fewer people were opening and loving on our weekly emails. Metrics were going down and so was my patience with our inactive subscribers.
I’m a big fan of practicing what you preach. And boy, have we preached re-engagement campaigns and getting rid of inactive subscribers a lot.
You guessed it – we moved forward with a killer, two-part re-engagement series to the subscribers who hadn’t opened or clicked inside our weekly emails in a year. I had high hopes for the response to this campaign. Basically, I wanted all our inactive subscribers to slap themselves on the forehead and reaffirm their devotion to us.
That didn’t happen. What did happen was two percent of the people we sent the emails to opened them and only .1% clicked. The rest really didn’t care.
I knew what needed to be done next, but the prospect of unsubscribing all those people from my list made my marketing heart break. But it had to be done. The positive aspect was that I didn’t delete these subscribers from our database entirely, or unsubscribe them from our other emails. They only got booted from our WhatCounts Weekly list.
Bye-Bye Inactives, Hello Engagement
For a month now, I’ve been holding my breath to see what would happen with our now squeaky-clean list. Would metrics remain the same (“they just couldn’t!”), would they droop lower (“impossible!”), or would they skyrocket (“yes, of course!”).
The truth is none of these things happened. Instead, the numbers have been creeping skyward at a steady pace since I got rid of the inactive subscribers. In fact, I’m happy to report the open rate is twice what it used to be: 12 percent now and 4-6 percent then. Additionally, CTOR has improved exponentially, which tells me the subscribers I now have on my list truly love the content in our emails.
The Future is Bright
I know you know it’s hard to drop people from your list. I’ve been there, shaking off the jitters as I waved goodbye to those 60 percent of subscribers. I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel: Our future of an engaged, happy list of people who love getting our email.
Keep your eye out for Part II of this post. I’m going to tell you how dropping 60% of our subscribers affected our deliverability. Don’t want to miss it!
Are you looking for an opportunity to prove your email marketing prowess?
Maybe you’re looking to challenge your co-workers to a friendly Friday showdown.
If so, take our true or false quiz on some of the most common email marketing myths and see if you can separate the fact from the fiction! Not only can you secure your title as the marketing guru of the office, you might even learn something new.
Tweet us your results via the links below!
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
It’s time to kick off your October email campaigns, as well as plan for your holiday season emails. With the right playbook, you’ll be able to attack your to-do list and score a touchdown with every message you send. Avoid email marketing fumbles with these tips for each part of your email marketing game.
An airtight offensive strategy for your October email campaigns starts with taking advantage of the autumn theme. This time of year often brings special traditions and routines for people. Capitalize on these fall festivities with your email campaigns including copy, color and creative.
Huddle up with your team and talk about what October holidays you can use to inspire your campaigns, too.
- Columbus Day is Oct. 13 – Why not make a play using a contest or giveaway for this official holiday? Time to get creative!
- Halloween is Oct. 31 – Promote your social media sites via email by asking subscribers to share costume ideas/pictures and then posting favorites in your email campaigns. Ideas like this one will get your brand fans cheering.
- Oktoberfest (dates vary) – These festivities are all about beer and German food. If that’s not your brand’s thing, maybe avoid this one. But if you can work it in, do! Here’s a fun example taken from a World Market Oktoberfest email:
This October, the defensive strategy for your email marketing should be focused on deliverability. The recent report from ReturnPath should motivate you to put double coverage on your delivery scores, especially with the holiday season approaching. Take the time now to build a solid reputation so your important holiday emails are sure to get through in the coming months. Here are the plays to add to your defensive formations:
- Block inactive subscribers. They’re only carrying away your engagement scores, so at the very least, you can unsubscribe those who haven’t opened in the past year.
- Add valuable players. Go after subscribers who do want to receive your content and will open and click within your emails. Beef up your preference center and website popups to gain these subscribers.
You can’t ignore those smaller, but oh-so-important, tasks that make your email marketing a star. Need help kicking your email campaigns through the goalposts for the win? We’ve got league veterans who can help with even the most specialized of tasks. You should see how we’ve helped a bunch of email marketers up their games.
Remember, the key to any successful email program is an offense, defense and special teams that complement each other. Yes, you’ve got to be prepared to work hard this October not only to punt amazing seasonal campaigns but to condition your email marketing for the holiday season. Once you’ve worked hard to put your playbook together, you can sit back and enjoy seeing the game in action.
This Monday, I’ve rounded up five top-notch articles from the web about email marketing, in honor of the new drag-and-drop lifecycle UI on our Professional Platform, and to provide you with some always needed Monday motivation.
Check out these articles, and then check out our lifecycle UI to be really inspired. It’s a total game-changer.
The Holiday Prep That Email Marketers Should Be Doing Now | Marketing Land
Along with cold weather and cheer, the holiday season always brings an amazing opportunity for email. Many smart email marketers have already started planning their campaigns. Whether you’ve been planning, or are maybe a little late to the party, read this article to get the scoop on what you need to do now to set yourself up for success this season.
How Much Do Retail Marketers Personalize Websites and Emails | MarketingProfs
I believe there is a direct correlation between the personalization of an email and the success and performance of said email. Each day, email recipients are becoming increasingly selective in what messaging piques their interest.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about personalization, so it never fails to surprise me when I come across a statistic like this one, found in a recent MarketingProfs article: “Nearly one-third (31%) of online retailers in the United States with annual marketing budgets exceeding $1 million do not personalize their websites in any way.” Hold-up. This stat astonished me – so I kept reading.
This post is chock-full of statistics that will show you what sort of personalization tactics are being utilized in the retail industry, what works best for the companies’ surveyed, and how your company can really take advantage of personalization to stand out.
Adaptive Content: The Omni-Channel Technique You Need to Implement | Content Marketing Institute
This article from Content Marketing Institute stood out to me as one of the most interesting I’ve read in recent memory. It is full of great ideas on the extremely interesting topic of integrating online and offline customer experiences, and, as the title suggests, adaptive content. I think it is worth a read by anyone in the marketing industry, but especially those in email marketing, where it is downright fun to think about all the possibilities in adaptive content and integrating an on-and- offline experience.
The Top 10 Ways To Re-Engage Dead Email Subscribers | KISSmetrics
How many unengaged subscribers are you sending to? According to this article, 60 percent of the average email list is made up of “dead” email subscribers. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Read this article to find ten strategies to put an end to disinterest, win back readers, and prevent future loss.
While you’re prepping your amazing holiday emails, don’t forget to prepare for the forces working against your carefully crafted campaigns: subscriber complaints and low engagement. Read this article for five tips to keep in mind.
Read an interesting email marketing article recently? Do share! Tweet at us or leave us a comment.
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
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From the Blog
Learn digital marketing tips, tricks and strategies from some of our top blog posts:
The ABCs of Email Testing: Learn about top strategies for testing your emails.
5 Easy Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out: Get noticed in the inbox with these subject line tips.
The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do: Keep your email marketing program healthy by following this one, easy-to-do tip.